Montvale Mayor Mike Ghassali will announce his bid to challenge Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) on July 1.
“I’m in. Game on,” Ghassali told the New Jersey Globe.
Ghassali, a Syrian immigrant whose family fled Aleppo when he was 15, is now the third candidate in the race for the Republican nomination in New Jersey’s 5th district.
He joins Frank Pallotta, a former investment banker with the ability to self-fund, and John McCann, a former Cresskill councilman who ran against Gottheimer last year.
The New Jersey Globe first reported on April 2 that Ghassali was mulling a bid for Congress.
Ghassali is up for re-election to a second term as mayor this year. A two-term Republican councilman, he ran as an independent in 2015 and unseated GOP incumbent Roger Fyfe with 60% of the vote. No Democrat or independent has filed to run against him.
He will launch his campaign at the Syriac Orthodox Church in Paramus.
Ghassali said he might be suited to take on Gottheimer, the two-term congressman known as the human fundraising machine. He has a background in logistics and finance and works as the vice president of corporate partnerships for Feed the Children, where he’s raised over $400 million in gift in kind for a program to mitigate child hunger in the United States.
The mayor has made some news beyond his small northern Bergen borough on the New Jersey/New York border.
After President Donald Trump issued his February 2017 travel ban that barred Syrian refugees from coming to the United States, Ghassali said he would not allow Montvale to become a sanctuary city.
He won praise from conservative radio and television personality Bill Spadea, who called him “a man of conviction and courage and sees the bigger picture of his role as a leader and law abiding American.”
“He is truly the epitome of the American dream,” Spadea said in 2017.
Gottheimer, who ousted seven-term Rep. Scott Garrett in 2016, is known as the Human Fundraising Machine. He had a total haul of $830,063 during the first three months of 2019, a massive amount of money for a two-term congressman who just won re-election by fourteen points.
Gottheimer now has $4.91 million cash-on-hand.
This story was updated on June 7, 2019.